UPDATE: Don’t ring the death knell yet–ABC News dashed our hopes and dreams, stating that there is no total habitat destruction and pubic lice are pests, and therefore not a valid part of an endangered species list, among other conclusive reasons. Surprise, surprise! Beauty treatments aren’t going to solve a public health crisis any time soon.
Humankind is winning a war by waging a battle it didn’t know it was fighting. According to a Bloomberg report, an unintended consequence of bikini waxing is rapidly decreasing cases of pubic lice, also known as crabs.
The article looked closely at Australia, where waxing is as prevalent as in the U.S. Within the past ten years, the sexually transmitted infection has gone from the most common symptom-causing ailment there, with at least a third of people experiencing an infestation at some point in their life, to nearly nonexistent. Citing better grooming as the culprit, Sydney’s main sexual health clinic stated that it hasn’t had a female patient with crabs since 2008 and that male cases have fallen 80 percent in the past decade.
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All signs point to bikini waxing as the main weapon. Cases of crabs dropped off as it grew in popularity in the early 2000s, partially due to storylines on shows like Sex and the City and partially due to the expansion of full waxing salons. New York’s J Sisters salon, thought to be the birthplace of stateside Brazilian waxes, began offering Brazilian waxes in 1994. The five Padilha sisters that own the salon had regularly waxed off all of their pubic hair back home in Brazil, where skimpy bikinis demanded minimal body hair.
Jonice Padilha told Bloomberg that the 200-some daily clients who get repeat treatments do so for continued hygiene and comfort, factors which further popularized the procedure. It’s become so popular that an Oct. 2011 report found that more than 80 percent of college students in the U.S. remove all or some of their pubic hair. A 2005 study reported that 99 percent of women in the U.K. older than 16 years remove some hair, most commonly from their underarms, legs and pubic area.
Thanks to this, treatments like topical creams are becoming obsolete and one of history’s nastiest scourges could become extinct. For once, this is “habitat destruction” that isn’t shamefully deleterious.
“Pubic grooming has led to a severe depletion of crab louse populations,” Ian F. Burgess, a Cambridge medical entomologist told Bloomberg. “Add to that other aspects of body hair depilation, and you can see an environmental disaster in the making for this species.”